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McNeill moves closer to first Tour win

George McNeill, Open
Jae C. Hong/AP
George McNeill has one top 10 this season.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Rookie George McNeill quietly took over sole possession of the lead in the Open, with John Daly on his heels for much of the day and generating all kinds of attention.

There may be a little more fanfare if McNeill holds on for his first PGA Tour title.

McNeill shot Saturday's low round at 5-under 67 on a tough scoring day at TPC Summerlin, making birdies on four of his last eight holes to retain the top spot on the leaderboard with a total 13-under 197 and a five-stroke lead over two others heading into Sunday's final round.

A tiny gallery of about 20 fans walked with the leaders, who were followed closely by the beloved Daly and the big crowd that supports him almost everywhere he goes.

"John's always going to have that many people following him," McNeill said. "When he's playing he's obviously a crowd pleaser and a draw, so we would turn around to see where he was."

The 32-year-old McNeill - who only last year worked as an assistant pro in Fort Myers, Fla. - began the third round in a three-way tie for the lead. He overcame a pair of bogeys on the front nine, and was 17-for-17 on putts from 10 feet or closer.

McNeill's lead equaled the largest on the PGA Tour this year going into the final day, also done in August by Steve Flesch in the Reno-Tahoe Open.

Robert Garrigus and D.J. Trahan were tied for second at 13 under. Garrigus shot a 68 for a three-day total of 202, having already moved up the leaderboard with his 63 on Friday. He had hoped to go 4 or 5 under considering the conditions.

Players dealt with fast greens in blustery conditions on a day when the fairways were firm and unforgiving, birdies hard to come by and rounds painfully slow, causing groups to wait up to 15 minutes between holes after players were split between Summerlin and TPC The Canyons and playing with amateurs in the two previous rounds.

Garrigus sipped water and socialized with friends and family to pass the time. Several players said the tempo was more frustrating than the wind.

"We were waiting pretty much all day," Garrigus said. "I'm not one of those guys who likes to wait too much, so I had to do a lot today to calm myself down and stay relaxed."

McNeill and Garrigus, a pair of qualifying school veterans, hope to make it an exciting final round. McNeill has been to Q-school nine times and Garrigus 10.

"You dream about this kind of moment when you're 5 years old and sitting there putting around the house," McNeill said.

Trahan, playing in the top group with McNeill and Garrett Willis, shot a 72 after back-to-back 65s. Willis fell back into a four-way tie for fourth after his 1-over 73.

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